Hamilton, Ill., business expands line of salsa products
By Cindy Iutzi/Gate City staff writer
Friday, July 21, 2006 3:40 PM CDT
HAMILTON, Ill. – The extreme, hot salsa served at M & G Broadway Tap probably could be made hotter, but customers would start melting and where’s the profit in that? Now the spicy concoction is being made in three additional levels of hot – including one that is sweeter and milder.
Gary Clark and Mary Mills, owners of M & G Broadway Tap, Hamilton, Ill., have had so much success with their signature salsa, they have had four varieties, sweet-mild, hot-mild, sweet-hot and extreme-hot (temporary paralysis of the taste buds), bottled in Chicago Heights under their brand name, “Grandpa G’s.”
Duck’s Red Fox in Hamilton has the salsa for sale in a display across from the meat counter. The brand will be offered at the Hamilton and Keokuk Farmers’ Markets as well. The couple is developing a Web site for Internet sales.
“We’re a neighborhood bar and grill,” Mills said. “We cook more food sometimes than we sell beer. We serve tacos, enchiladas, chimichangas, chips, salsa and a full menu from chicken to burgers. Wednesday is taco night.”
The tavern also is known for its own hot sauce, which is next in line to be bottled and sold in the area.
Clark started making the salsa five years ago using homegrown tomatoes and peppers and the same trial and error method he used for so long to develop his premiere hot sauce.
“The sauce has been an experiment for just about 23 years until Gary got where he has today,” Mills said.
The salsa recipe is a half-nod secret. Clark will give a small smile and incline his head slightly at a guess that tomatoes, peppers and onions are in the mix. He would say the lengthy process of development was directly related to the difference in peppers, but would say nothing else about the ingredients.
The design of the salsa’s texture also was a deliberate project that required much research … and many chips. He made the salsa slightly “wet,” so it will cling to the chip, even if the plentiful chunks of tomato, pepper and onion fall off.
The bottling company has the recipe and makes the salsa exactly the way Mills and Clark want it, but had to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of the contract.
The couple picked up the first load of bottled and labeled salsa in Chicago, but the second batch will be trucked to Hamilton and a warehouse facility the couple has yet to locate. Mills and Clark are planning to take care of distribution themselves.
As with many couples, the two have differing tastes. Clark likes his salsa hot, and Mills likes it mild. She recommends mixing the sweet-mild with the sweet-hot to get a medium spicy, sweet salsa that she often uses on scrambled eggs.
M & G Broadway Tap from-scratch-flour-taco-chips are another item the couple intends to mass produce and sell along with several items coming on for the fall, including: jalepeño mustard, jalepeño ketchup, jalepeño-raspberry syrup, jalepeño-raspberry jelly and green jalepeño jelly.
Mills and Clark have been able to pay for advertising their product due to a $4,083 Opportunity Returns Grant from the State of Illinois, which helps with marketing farm-related items.
Advertising made possible through the Opportunity Returns Grant includes local and regional flyers, posters and brochures, and Chicago area billboards and newspaper ads that will be used to widen Grandpa G’s market.
“Friends and families thought we should put this on the market,” Mills said. “And I agree with them. We have a product that is as good as what’s on the market, and better. We had a problem finding a salsa we liked, so we made it on our own.”